Spain’s ambitious Leopard 2E upgrade faces budget constraints

The Spanish military is poised to implement a large-scale refurbishment program for its Leopard 2E tank fleet. These tanks, comparable to the modified Leopard 2A6 vehicles, have served Spain for over 15 years. 

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Photo: Wikipedia

Currently, there is no concrete modernization plan in place for these military vehicles. Several viable options are being considered, including the implementation of dynamic protection units and the integration of remotely operated combat modules. 

Funding is another critical factor yet to be determined. The total cost of this refurbishment program is unclear, and the sufficiency of the Spanish defense budget to cover it is still uncertain. Despite these uncertainties, the Spanish armed forces hold onto the hope that, given adequate finances, they could commence the upgrading of their Leopard 2E tanks as early as 2024. 

Spanish military experts are also contemplating other features of the future modernization strategy. This can include the potential replacement of the existing 120-mm gun with a more advanced model, the increase of the reserve, or a total revamp of the onboard electronics to enhance the crew’s situational awareness.

A new role in Spanish industry

Interestingly, this time around, it seems that Spain’s military has a mission. They want their native industries to lead the pack when it comes to overhauling the Leopard 2E. You might recall that the last time the Leopard 2E was manufactured for Spain’s army, it brought together the German powerhouse, KMW, and Spain’s very own GDELS in a collaborative effort. 

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Speculation suggests that this initiative to update Spain’s Leopard 2E tanks will form part of a broader vision to overhaul Spain’s military by 2035. The catalyst likely to set things in motion is a service contract worth a cool 126 million euros, spread out over three years, dedicated to Spain’s ‘Leopard’ tanks.

In case you’re wondering about the numbers, let me shed some light. Currently, Spain’s military owns 219 Leopard 2E tanks, along with 16 BREMs and four training vehicles. They also have about 90 Leopard 2A4 tanks on active duty, with another 43 of these machines safely tucked away in storage.

About Leopard 2E

The Leopard 2E is a variant of the German Leopard 2 main battle tank, specifically tailored for the Spanish Army. This tank is a result of a program initiated by the Spanish government, which involved the development and production of 219 tanks by the Spanish company, Santa Bárbara Sistemas, with substantial German technology transfer.

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The Leopard 2E is renowned for its enhanced armor protection. It has a modular composite armor system, with additional armor modules that can be fitted to the turret and hull. This provides the tank with superior protection against anti-tank weapons, mines, and improvised explosive devices. 

The tank is powered by an MTU MB 873 Ka-501 liquid-cooled V-12 twin-turbo diesel engine, which produces 1,500 horsepower. This powerplant allows the Leopard 2E to reach a top speed of 70 km/h on roads and 45 km/h off-road. The tank has a power-to-weight ratio of 24.5 horsepower per tonne, which grants it excellent mobility on various terrains.

Leopard 2E operational range and weaponry

The operational range of the Leopard 2E is truly remarkable. When the tank is fully fueled, it can traverse a distance of up to 550 kilometers on paved roads. Moreover, this range can be stretched further with the addition of external fuel tanks

This powerful vehicle is equipped with a 120mm L/44 smoothbore gun, able to fire a wide array of standard NATO ammunition. It also boasts not one, but two 7.62mm machine guns—one mounted coaxially with the primary gun and the other situated atop the turret. To amplify its offensive capabilities, the Leopard 2E is fitted with advanced fire control systems and state-of-the-art thermal imaging sights, thereby enhancing its battle efficacy in both day and night scenarios.

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